Glenn Hubbard as Ignorant as He Pretends

Glenn HubbardGlenn Hubbard is the ultimate example of a conservative economist who has given up all pretense of being a scientist and works just as an apologist for conservative policy. See my article, Conservative Apologia Economics. I really can’t see him talk without having a strong desire to slap him. He’s got the smug demeanor of a man who knows he was once smart and knowledgeable, but now thinks the smartest thing he ever did was to sell his soul for thirty pieces of silver. Unlike Judas, however, I doubt that Hubbard will give his blood money back and hang himself. But it’s pretty to think so.

Any time that Hubbard publicly embarrasses himself, I am very interested. If there were a new cable network “Glenn Hubbard Speaks” (which is the same as embarrassing himself), I would get cable. In fact, that would be a good way to kill me. I don’t think I could tear myself away from the station to eat. It would be like the best drug ever. Or better: Infinite Jest!

Tim GeithnerSo I was all excited this weekend when Hubbard and Tim Geithner got into a bit of a fight. Now I’m no fan of Geithner. But he isn’t Seventh Sign evil like Hubbard is. So there was little doubt where my sympathies would lie. And it turned out like that. In Geithner’s new book, he says that he had a conversation with Hubbard. Hubbard criticized the White House for not jumping all over the Simpson-Bowles budget plan. Geithner said they would when the Republicans said they would be willing to raise taxes as the Simpson-Bowles plan required. Hubbard replied, “[W]ell of course we have to raise taxes, we just can’t say that now.” At least, that’s what Geithner claims.

This exchange makes Hubbard look like a jerk. For one thing, it has been a big Republican talking point that Obama didn’t embrace Simpson-Bowles, even though they are even more against it than the Democrats. But it’s worse than that. Is Hubbard an economist or a Republican political hack? Well, we know the answer to that, but Hubbard would claim that he’s an economist. And just like John Roberts, he would tell you that he just calls economics as he sees it. He has no ax to grind!

Matt YglesiasHubbard shot back. “Geithner is making it up. It’s pretty simple. It’s not true.” Oh! My! God! Tim Geithner is lying about Glenn Hubbard! Or so says Glenn Hubbard who has all the credibility of that scorpion who kills the turtle in the famous Aesop’s Fable. Still, it’s he said, he said. Who can know the truth?

Well, Matt Yglesias took a dive into the facts, The Geithner-Hubbard Spat Shows How Conservative Wonks Try to Have it Both Ways on Taxes. He found that Hubbard had actually written an OpEd in The New York Times where he admitted that taxes would need to go up. What does this mean:

One point is that conservative economic policy elites like Hubbard are often trying to have it both ways on Simpson-Bowles—criticizing the White House for not immediately endorsing the commission’s proposal while also adhering to a rigid “no tax hikes” line that makes discussing Simpson-Bowles pointless. The other is that conservative policy elites like Hubbard know that the rigid “no tax hikes” line doesn’t make sense either practically or conceptually, but are unwilling to challenge it head on. Hubbard’s angry insistence that he never deviated from the party line on taxes—even though he did, very publicly, in the country’s most famous newspaper—is emblematic of those trends.

There’s a bigger issue here that goes beyond what a repugnant little prig Hubbard is. The conservative movement is based upon this idea that they are just telling the prols what they want to hear but that once they are in power, they’ll do what has to be done. But that never happens. Ever since Bush the Elder, Republicans have decided that raising taxes is toxic. So Hubbard may write the occasional OpEd that says what he knows to be true. But if he were high up in a Romney administration today, he’d be selling the idea that we really need to lower the top tax bracket to 25%. It’s like that line from Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” The conservative elites pretend to be as ignorant as the loony base, and in the end, they are as ignorant as the loony base.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Glenn Hubbard as Ignorant as He Pretends

  1. Stupidity. My father was fond of spitting out the question "How could you possibly be so stupid as to…" I did not merely do something ill advised. I insulted the man’s sensibilities as to what belonged in the realm of the possible. I crossed into the seventh sigma of stupid. And this was not reserved for special occasions. It was the default error message. I would probably be a happier person if I did not dwell upon the things people have said to me.
    And boy do I go to the internet every day to get my fill of conservative stupidity. With the House captive there isn’t much else to do. But I wonder how stupid my enemies really are. Unskewed polls, ORCA, and Karl Rove pleading to put Iowa back in play are surely good evidence for stupidity. Don’t these guys get paid a fortune to be useful to team evil? Bush had Carte Blanche to plunder one of the biggest pools of oil in the world and, well, you know. But is stupid the right word? I use it to mean folly, arrogance, corruption, mendacity, superstition, bigotry, magical thinking, etc. Do I call all of these things stupid because that is the underlying error, or is it something else? Is the English language impoverished for the vocabulary of stupid, or am I just being lazy?
    Finally,is money, concentrated, weaponized wealth, really all the conservative movement has left? They can’t seem to do anything right.

  2. @Lawrence – I think it all goes back to what I call the paradox of power. Think of John Boehner: in order to hold onto his power, he can’t do what he really wants to do. So he panders to the crazies in the House (not to say that Boehner isn’t crazy too, just not [i]as[/i] crazy) so as to keep his power. But power is meaningless if actually using it means you lose it.

    In the same way, Romney may have thought that if he had been elected, he would not have gone forward with his crazy budget plan. But the truth is, he would have. This is very similar to George Orwell’s great essay, "Shooting An Elephant." Power is not what it appears to be.

    The solution to the problem is to always be honest about what you believe. That way, if you get power, it’s real power. The Republicans are in a real bind. They know they can’t tell the truth because the truth is that they represent a tiny minority that is already doing really well. If they were honest, the Green Party would get more votes than they do.

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